Wittenberg Hemp Farmers Harvest First Season Under State’s Pilot Program

Local News

Farmers who were accepted into Wisconsin’s pilot program for growing hemp are harvesting their first season of the plant, and one couple in Wittenberg said they hope to see the industry grow in the future. 

Michael and Deb Omernik of Wittenberg are two of the 200 farmers who were accepted into the pilot program. As part of the program, they’ll keep their harvest, but share their research and experience from the season with the state.

“Our research was focused on seed varieties, tillage practices, and nutrients,” Michael Omernik said.

It looks just like the marijuana plant, but hemp can’t get a person high because it only has trace amounts of THC. 

“Marijuana and hemp are like two different dogs, a German Shepard and a chihuahua,” Deb said. “They’re both canines, but they’re completely different animals.”

If the 2018 Farm Bill is passed by Congress and signed into law, it will redefine hemp as a crop, not a drug, that Americans can legally grow again for the first time since 1970.

“It would open up a lot of doors and make it easier just to get things through,” Michael said. “One of our initial concerns was the seed had to go through Minnesota, and we weren’t sure if we were going to get it.”

The Omerniks want their seeds cold pressed into hemp seed oil, but they’ll have to have them processed out of state, since they can’t find a place that can do it in Wisconsin.

For a state that’s legendary for its dairy, the Omerniks would like to see Wisconsin sow a new seed in its agriculture industry. 

“There’s products being sold right now in Wisconsin, but they’re coming from Canada,” the Omerniks said. “Why not have them come from Wisconsin? Yeah, homegrown, why not?”

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